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Dance/Movement Activities for Older Students (Ages 8-18+)

Updated on August 20, 2015

Things to keep in mind

  • Be enthusiastic
  • Clear instructions with both safety and creativity in mind
  • Keep excitement up by being 'it' first
  • Create a positive atmosphere
  • Make sure that students are not focused on winning, but learning and having fun
  • Allow adequate time for each activity


When teaching older children, especially teens, it is very important to keep a few things in mind to have activities be a success. First off YOU need to be excited about the activity. If you are not looking forward to the activity why should your students? Make sure you give clear instructions. Instructions should be restrictive for safety, but allow for a lot of creativity, fun and laughter. Begin with yourself calling the commands or being the person who is 'It' to keep enthusiasm up and continue to raise the students' excitement. Encourage the students as the game progresses and create a positive atmosphere. When a student is 'out' make it a positive thing rather than making them feel rejected and bad. The focus should be learning and having a great time, not winning or beating others. Be sure you allow enough time for the game to stop at an appropriate time. Nothing kills a good activity like having to stop in the middle because class has finished!


Activity #1: Dance/Movement Version of Mother May I?


This is a great game, but is rather lengthy. Usually only 1-2 students end up being 'mother' so plan accordingly. The class stands at one end of the room and the person who is 'mother' stands on the other end with their back to the class and their eyes closed. The students take turns asking 'mother' for permission to move forward in different ways. The 'mother' either approves or denies the request. The goal is for someone to reach 'mother' first. Once a student reaches the other side, they become 'mother'.


Choose a student to be 'mother'. A good way is to choose a number 1-20 in your head, have the students each pick a number and the closest gets to be 'mother' first.

'Mother' stands on one end of the room with their back to the center of the room.

Have the rest of the class line up horizontally. (In order to avoid favoritism, try having students line up by height, favorite color, birthday, age, etc)

Choose an end from which to start.

Have the first student ask, "Mother, may I _________________?" They can insert whatever things they would like such as take 3 leaps forward, take 5 chaines forward, take 11 ballet runs forward, take 1 sissone forward, etc.

The 'Mother' then responds with their answer. They may answer 1 of 2 ways. They can say "Yes, you may" or "No, but you can _________________." They can insert whatever they choose such as 2 bunny hops forward, 4 jazz walks, 1 leap, 2 glissades, etc.

Once the student has completed their action, they stay still in the spot in which they landed until their next turn.

The goal is for one of the students to reach the 'mother' first.

Whoever reaches the 'Mother' first trades spots with the person at the end.


In order to ask the 'mother' to move, students need to know dance terminology. They will need to know what movement goes with what term. Since they are trying to reach 'mother' they need to travel and use their space adequately. This activity engages students physically and helps with social/emotional developement and cognitive development.

Example of Pictures


Activity #2: Picture Inspired Improvisation


This activity does require some pre planning and extra work before class. Each student receives picture(s) which they then use to inspire a short sequence of movement.This activity can be used to introduce improvisation.

Pre-Class Instructions

Choose a lot of abstract pictures from the Internet, magazines, books, etc. (Between 60-70 is a great number)

They do not need to be large, 2" x 2" is plenty.


Either spread the pictures face down on the floor or in an envelope. Placing them out and face down usually works best to minimize the chance of students seeing the picture.

Have each student choose a picture and keep it face down.

Take turns for each student to turn their picture over, describe what they see and show movement in interpret. (Encourage out of the box thinking rather than a literal translation)

Once they have done this, try drawing 2+ pictures and link all the pictures in a movement sequence.


This is a good one to introduce improvisation to students. This encourages cognitive development and allows for creativity. However, it also is very influential in emotional and social development as the students are put on the spot, have no time to pre-plan and need to abandon their fear of others' judgement and just let their ideas flow.


Activity #3: Dance Version of 4 Corners


This tends to be a favorite among students, particularly high school students. One person sits at center and gives commands with their eyes closed. The others follow the commands and when the center person chooses a corner, everyone in that corner sits in the middle. The goal is to get it down to one person who will exchange places with the person in the middle.


Select a student to start in the middle (A great unbiased way is to pick a number 1-20 in your head and have each student choose. Whoever is closest begins in the center)

Number the corners of the room 1, 2, 3, 4. Be sure to point to each corner as you say the number so the order is clear.

Student in the middle must have eyes closed/covered for the duration of the game.

Student in the middle chooses something for everyone to do to a corner. Examples are leaps, pique turns, chaines, pirouettes, grand battements, etc. Of course they can get really creative. The best examples of this are army crawls, ninja rolls and fish out of water. They can interpret these things any way they wish which really opens the door for creativity.

Once every student is in a corner, the instructor has the student in the middle choose a number 1-4. Whoever is in the corner of the number chosen comes and sits in the middle.

There are 2 basic rules:

  1. You MUST change corners every time
  2. Once it is down to the last 2 people you may NOT stand in the same corner


This activity gives students an opportunity to practice different skills as well as use their imagination and creativity. They also must learn to execute the movement as quietly as possible to the corners so the middle person cannot hear where in the room everyone is standing. It engages the students physically while increasing cognitive function and growth.


Game #4: Name the Person


This activity introduces students to influential people in the dance world including performers, directors and choreographers. This one takes a little bit of preparation and thought prior to class.

Pre-Class Instructions

For this 1/4 or 1/2 sheets of paper is best to use.

Depending on your class size select influential people from the dance world. Try to span over different decades and genres. Usually around 20-25 is a safe number.

Label each piece of paper with the person's name at the top with 5-7 facts on that person listed below. Include a picture so students can connect a face with a name.

Some examples are:

Bob Fosse

Vera Ellen

George Balanchine

Isadora Duncan

Michael Jackson

Misty Copeland


There are 2 ways to introduce this activity.

1) Pick a different person each week for learn about and discuss

2) Go through the cards quickly and give a general overview for each

Place the cards face down and have each student choose one. They may not look at the card.

Give each student a safety pin or paper clip and assist students in attaching the card face out to the back of their shirt/leotard.

The students then mingle together. Have them pair off and each student will give the other a hint about the card on their back. Once the hint is given, if the student does not guess the person, they switch and repeat with a different hint.

They continue giving hints until everyone has figured out who is on their card. Be sure that hints are not obvious. Using the facts on the card is always a help.


It is very common for students under the age of 18 not to know any facts about some of the legends who came before and help mold dance into the art we see today. This is a great way to introduce dance history while still remaining fun and active. It also is a wonderful way to spark interest in their learning more about these legends outside of the classroom.


Game #5: Ships & Sailors the Dance Version


Students follow commands given by the person who is 'it'. If someone does the wrong command or is the 'odd one out' they go sit in the front. The last person trades spots with whoever was 'it'.


This one works best of the instructor begins as 'it' so that the students get an idea of what is going on. Using the instructor as a practice round is a great idea to be sure the students have all the commands.

Explain the game. Go through each command one at a time and have the students try each one.

These are suggested commands, but of course they can be altered, some added or subtracted to best fit the class.


Stage Right: move to stage right

Stage Left: move to stage left

Upstage: move upstage

Downstage: move downstage

Partner: dance in a group of 2

Trio: dance in a group of 3

Kickline: link arms and kick in a group of 4

Final pose: group of 3 in a cohesive pose

Beautiful Ballerina: students do their interpretation of ballet

Break It Down: students do their interpretation of hip hop

Jazz It Up: students do their interpretation of jazz

Tremendous Tapper: students do their interpretation of jazz

Broadway: students do their interpretation of musical theater dance

Lovely Lyrical: students do their interpretation of lyrical

Work It Out: students do their interpretation of a work out

Teacher's Coming: students sit criss cross with hands in their lap, a straight back and the most innocent look they can muster. They can only be move out of this position of the command "Rest." is given.

Rest: gets students out of teacher's coming

*Tip: the faster the commands are given once the students have them the more fun the game becomes


This activity is great for cardio. The students also must use listening skills, teamwork and know the different styles of dance and parts of the stage. Students definitely get a lot of physical benefit out of this game, but also cognitive and emotional/social.

Activity Poll

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Activity Poll Part 2

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Activity Poll Part 3

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